I considered calling this post, “Lies, damn lies, and statistics,” in reference to the following headline the Dispatch ran on Saturday.
Worst corridors to bike, walk
MORPC compiles list from 5 years of data on auto crashes with cyclists, pedestrians
Saturday, January 16, 2010 3:12 AM
By Jennifer Smith Richards
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
Bikers and walkers were in accidents with vehicles 150 times on a 3-mile segment of High Street in a five-year period, making the busy strip the city’s most crash-prone corridor for those who don’t get around by auto.
The bit of High Street that runs from Clintonville to the Short North can be a bear, a study from the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission says. The agency looked at police reports from 2003 to 2007 to find the area’s trouble spots.
Roads along the Ohio State University campus and the Hilltop community on the West Side are the most troublesome. The five-year study, which is the first of this scale that MORPC has conducted, pinpoints both corridors and specific locations that are danger zones, including:
• Lane Avenue at High Street
• High Street at Long Street
• Broad Street at Central Avenue
Basically, the Dispatch failed to account for the element of exposure. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the crash frequency of a road or intersection is not nearly as important as the crash rate. It’s impossible to know if these corridors are actually the most dangerous in the city without having widespread counts of pedestrians and bicyclists. For example, you’re not likely to find many ped or bike crashes on Polaris Pkwy, but that doesn’t make it safe. It’s just that nobody actually walks or bikes there. High Street however – far from being one of the worst places to walk or bike – is absolutely one of the best. In my experience, bike crash data are particularly sensitive to exposure. You could almost look at the following maps from MORPC and use them as a substitute for counts rather than making any conclusions about safety.
I would recommend using these maps to identify the locations where multi-modal transportation should be a focus. The City and COTA should focus all streetscape efforts, bikeway facilities, and transit improvements in these corridors that are already showing promise as hubs of urban activity. Build on your strengths and make it safer at the same time.
You can read more at MORPC’s site here.